The people of Hokkaido are just as intriguing. The Ainu have lived here for thousands of years and, even today, many still practice their ancient beliefs and customs. Bird feathers are sewn together for clothing. Fish and wild plants are gathered for winter. And traditional dance and song are an integral part of life.
Hokkaido is arguably one of Japan’s best-kept culinary secrets. The deep, cold oceans provide an abundance of fresh seafood including crab, scallops, salmon, and octopus. Hokkaido’s sea urchins are especially delectable due to their mellow, sweet flavor. The urchin sashimi is a must.
For serious seafood enthusiasts, the town of Hakodate is renowned for its morning market. Over 350 stalls offer delicacies such as freshly caught squid, salmon eggs, and Atka mackerel. Or just take a seat at one of the town’s many Michelin-starred restaurants.
No matter if you’re wandering the Hakodate market, sipping beer in Sapporo, or sampling sushi in Otaru, you must try the ishikari-nabe, or salmon hotpot, authentic to Hokkaido. Tantalizing chunks of salmon are stewed together with vegetables and tofu for a taste of both land and sea. Also, be sure to order the “Genghis Khan,” in which sliced mutton, bean sprouts, and pumpkin are served in a helmet-shaped iron bowl.